Intraspecific Variation in Commuting Distance of Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus): Ecological and Energetic Consequences of Nesting Further Inland. Churchill, 2001.
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Radio transmitters were deployed on Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) at Desolation Sound, British Columbia, Canada, during the 1998 breeding season to assess individual variation in distance birds nested from foraging areas, and potential energetic and ecological consequences of commuting those distances. Radio-tracking from a helicopter was used to locate nests, and tracking from the air and boats was used to locate murrelets on the water. Twenty-three nests were found, with active incubation at 16, and active chick-rearing at 12. A minimum of 3 nests fledged chicks, 9 were failures, and 11 were unknown. Nests were at an elevation of 806 ± 377 m and a distance of 39.2 ± 23.2 km (range 12-102 km) from locations on the water. Birds spent an estimated 1.2 ± 0.7 h per day commuting to and from nests (range 0.3-3.5 h per day). It was estimated that birds expended 3,883 ± 2,296 kJ (range 1,200-10,144 kJ) over the breeding season when commuting to those nests, which was 5-41% of their estimated field metabolic-rate during the breeding season. There was no relationship between distance to nests and breeding success. Either Marbled Murrelets can accommodate that additional energy expenditure, or reduce commuting costs by modifying their foraging behavior. They may forage closer to nest sites when provisioning chicks, thereby reducing commuting costs with a payload, or alter nest visitation rates in relation to distance they nest from foraging areas. Nests further inland may also confer advantages that compensate for the added commuting, or birds might replenish body reserves at the end of the breeding season.